Recession Recipes


Well, it’s that time again…time to shed a few winter pounds and save a few spring bucks. So I am officially challenging myself to take my lunch to work at least 2-3 times/week. Here’s what’s on the lunch menu today:

-Basmati rice, lemon roasted broccoli & garlic [b & g tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt & roasted for about 35 min at 375], tofu [firm, just cut into chunks], and my favorite Korean sauce [scroll down for link to spicy garlic sauce]. Garnished with some red watercress & pickled ramps, because I happened to have some in my fridge. Much better than spending $9 on the salad bar at Whole Foods (especially because I always end up buying other stuff when I go in there…you know what I’m talkin’ about…)


Today’s I-Can’t-Afford-To-Go-Grocery-Shopping-So-Let’s-See-What’s-In-The-Kitchen recipe is Multigrain Pasta with Buttery Spiced Spinach.

While the pasta is boiling, toss a chunk of frozen spinach in a small pot or pan with a large chunk of butter (2 tablespoons to start–you can add more if you like. I did!). Add salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg and/or allspice, a smidge of red pepper flakes (if you like. I find everything tastes better with a smidge of red pepper flakes) and a teaspoon or two of mustard seeds. The beauty of this dish is that the spinach cooks down into soft, buttery goodness, and the mustard seed gives it a subtle spiciness. It’s super delicious. Serve over the pasta.


Winter cure-all = the hot toddy. Empty honey jar + ginger + lemon + cinnamon stick. Add hot water, whiskey/rum/bourbon, & honey. Close lid & shake. Drink in the liquid love...


Omelets are a recession staple. Easy to make, and you can just toss in whatever odds and ends happen to be in your fridge/pantry. It’s kind of fun to come up with interesting combinations. Here’s the latest, which I will post a pic of next time I make–was too hungry this morning!! (And yes, it’s kind of yet another recreation/reinterpretation of my beloved spicy garlic sauce. I’ll move on. Eventually.)

Toss in a pan at medium high heat: generous splash of sesame oil, 2 chopped up scallions, flax seeds (they’re good for you & add a nice crunch!), sesame seeds, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, bit of fresh or dried ground ginger if you have any handy, 2-3 grated radishes, 1-2 grated garlic cloves, splash of soy sauce, tiny sprinkle of sugar & salt.

I like to add a bit of tomato, too (in any form–leftover tomato sauce, fresh or canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, or–in a pinch–catsup!); it adds a nice depth–just don’t put too much in, esp if using catsup–you can also add the tomato bit as a garnish after the omelet is out of the pan.

Let this cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more sesame oil (or other oil) if needed.

Meanwhile, beat two eggs if you have them, or if you only have one, beat it with a bit of water, corn starch & flour (I actually prefer this–the corn starch/flour gives it a firmer texture which I like).

Pour eggs into pan (lots of oil & high heat works well here). Cook. Enjoy.


What happens to pumpkins in my house after halloween...which is kinda what happens to everything else, too...serve over quinoa, slather in korean spicy garlic sauce...

Note #1: Leftover pumpkin was sauteed with butter, olive oil, crushed rosemary, mustard seeds, coriander, garlic, and salt. Toss with whole grain pasta, salt to taste, add another drizzle of olive oil and a tiny splash of vinegar. (Kind of unbelievably good. The pumpkin will get all mushy/buttery, and that’s exactly what you want; in fact, if it doesn’t get mushy, go ahead and mush it up in the pan while it’s still cooking.)

Note #2: Bonus! Roasted pumpkin seeds!


I’ve devolved to instant ramen consumption. Send help.


This is my current lazy, cheap lunch fix of the week (which is admittedly just an attempt to find other things to eat with the Korean Spicy Garlic Sauce of my earlier post. I think it would make cardboard taste good.) We’ll call it Whole Grain Pasta with Tofu, Veg, and Spicy Garlic Sauce.

10270913211. Throw into pot o boiling water: whole grain penne pasta (sounds grossly healthy; tastes amazing–a nice nutty flavor), cubed extra firm tofu, & your veg of choice (have tried with broccoli and carrot but it could be whatever. i suspect pumpkin or butternut squash or sweet potato would be heavenly, too.)

2. Add to taste: dollop of peanut butter, a few heavy handed slugs of sesame oil & soy sauce, sprinkle of sugar, sprinkle of red pepper flakes, generous handful of toasted sesame seeds, a grated garlic clove.

3. Extras: I like to top this with something raw & crunchy, depending on what I have around…grated carrots, scallions, green beans, parsley, cilantro…

Done! Lunch is served!


Today was a rainy gloomy fall day. Fortunately for my recession budget, this means I’d rather rummage around in my pantry than go outside and buy food. Today’s recipe is still a work-in-progress, but it turned out pretty delish, and is based on Marcella Hazan’s recipe for chick pea soup in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (home of another favorite minimalist recipe, “Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter,” which is, in a nutshell: combine 2 cups diced canned tomatoes, 5 tablespoons of butter, dash of salt, and one medium onion, peeled & cut in 1/2. Cook for 45 min. Remove onion halves. I don’t know why it tastes so good, but it tastes sooooo good. Okay maybe the 5 tablespoons of butter has something to do with it.)

Chunky Chick Pea Tomato Soup with Rosemary and Orzo

4 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, ground with mortar & pestle
1 cup (or more) of diced canned tomatoes, w/juice
1 can (or more) of chick peas
1 cup (or more) of broth
1/4 cup orzo  (rice would work fine, too)
1/4 cup heavy cream
some fresh parsley, if you happen to have it

1. Put garlic & olive oil in a pot & saute over medium heat

2. Add rosemary; stir. Add tomatoes. Cook for 20-25 min.

3. Add chick peas. Cook for 5 min.

4. Add broth, orzo, heavy cream, parsley. Simmer on low heat 15 min or more. Salt/pepper to taste.

So, the results of the above came out pretty thick and chunky, not that I was complaining. If you’re going for more soup-like, you can increase the amount of broth, and maybe slightly more tomato.


The minimalist approach to cooking really jives with the whole not spending money thing. Fewer ingredients=cheaper meals. Shopping smart, fresh, seasonal & local=better for your health. Buying only what you need=wasting less.

I’m lucky to live in a city with an abundance of farmers markets. Union Square green market is my favorite. It’s huge, and more vendors means you can shop around for the best price. It’s also frequent–Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday–so I can swing by whenever I happen to need to be in Manhattan anyway.

Trader Joe’s is another recession staple. Thank GOODNESS they’ve finally opened up two locations in NYC.

I also find that when I clean out & organize my kitchen cupboards, I not only feel good about de-cluttering, but I discover many things I forgot I had, like my stash of dried porcini & shiitake mushrooms which where hiding behind some boxes of pasta, and the fantastic truffle salt I discovered at a little gourmet shop in Chicago a few years ago (a tiny bit sprinkled on just about anything tastes delicious, and it lasts forever).

My weekly meal planning goes something like this: I find a main dish recipe I like that has 4 or fewer relatively inexpensive ingredients that I don’t already have on hand. This is usually my Meal for the Week–if I like it, I don’t mind eating it multiple times. I also pick a veggie of choice from what’s in season at the farmers market; I’ve learned that just about any fresh veggie makes a delicious, simple salad when combined with salt, lemon, olive oil & fresh parsley (current obsession=radishes) and can also be bulked up with leftover pasta, rice, grains or beans.

Here are some of my current favorites:

  • Velvety Lemon Chicken Soup (modifications: I add a few cloves of garlic, toss in the entire lemon rind & then cut it into thin strips after it simmers with the chicken, and use chicken thighs instead of breast because they are cheaper. I also sometimes add more broth along with some rice or orzo, and occasionally substitute cilantro or dill for the parsley. I like to toss in some capers, too, if I happen to have some in my fridge.)
  • Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce (I could seriously eat this almost every day, it’s so good. I like to serve it with quinoa.)
  • Cheesy Leek and Couscous Cake, from 400 Three and Four Ingredient Recipes (Basically, you prepare couscous, then add in sauteed leeks–or whatever else you feel like–and some grated cheese, salt & pepper, and then you heat some olive oil in a pan, add the couscous mixture & pat it down to form a cake, cook it 15 min/until underside is crisp & golden, invert it & cook the other side for 5-8 min. It’s astonishingly tasty, served with a simple fresh green salad.)

One thought on “Recession Recipes

  1. Julie Polk says:

    Yummy! Tomorrow is my shopping day (my building is running a van to Fairway and a 10% discount, very recession-unemployment friendly), and I am STOKED.

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